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Francesco Botticini, The Assumption of the Virgin

Key facts
Full title The Assumption of the Virgin
Artist Francesco Botticini
Artist dates about 1446 - 1497
Date made probably about 1475-6
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 228.6 × 377.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1882
Inventory number NG1126
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Assumption of the Virgin
Francesco Botticini

Heaven and earth are united in this vast, dramatic scene. A dome-shaped vault has opened up in the sky to reveal Christ blessing the Virgin Mary. She kneels before him, her hands together in prayer. They are surrounded by ranks of neatly ordered angelic beings, saints and Old Testament figures: the ageing couple beneath the Virgin are Adam and Eve, ancestors of the human race according to the Bible, wearing camel-skin robes.

The Virgin has ascended after death to join this place full of clouds and golden light. Her empty tomb below has filled with lilies, to the amazement of the apostles who gather around it. The image is based upon a poem by the Florentine apothecary, writer and politician Matteo Palmieri, who is shown kneeling to the left of the tomb, opposite his wife Niccolosa. The poem described the pre-existence of the soul before birth. As this was considered heretical by some, the couples' faces (now restored) were scratched out in protest.

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